Let me get this out of the way first: there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to vocal plugins. Depending on the style of music you make, and the type of vocals you’re working with, different plugins will work better than others.
Another thing, you cannot fix a bad vocal track with plugins. If the singer is totally out of tune, or the recording setup is poorly made, no amount of plugins will save your track.
So you should always try to get the best possible recording of your vocalist and then add plugins to the vocal chain to shape the sound.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best vocal plugins on the market.
Ofcourse, this is just a small selection, but these are the ones we keep coming back to.
Little AlterBoy by Soundtoys
This little vocal processing plugin is hugely popular among pop producers to make dramatic vocal alterations. With Little AlterBoy, you can easily make a vocal sound younger or older, more masculine or feminine, and even control the melody using MIDI.
The interface is very simple and easy to use, having just a few knobs offering a lot of control and it sounds amazing. There are also presets to get you started, or you can create your own custom settings.
Priced at around $100, Little AlterBoy is a great value for the money, especially for those chasing unique, out-of-the-world sounds. You can use it on not just vocals though, it can be used on synths, guitars, and even drums.
Melodyne 5 Essential by Celemony
If you’re looking for a plugin to correct or manipulate vocals in a very precise way, Melodyne is the tool for you. Celemony is the company behind this plugin, and they are the pioneers of pitch correction software.
Melodyne 5 Essential is their most basic and cheapest offering, priced at around $100, which should be enough powerful for most people. Their studio version costs $700+ and is aimed at demanding users who need multitracking and complex editing features.
Auto-tune plugin is a must-have for any producer, especially those working with a non-pro singer who might need some help with pitch correction. It can also be used creatively to create interesting vocal effects.
FabFilter Pro-Q 3
EQ’ing is one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of mixing. A good EQ can solve a lot of sonic problems and help make your tracks sound polished and professional.
FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is one of the best EQ plugins on the market, offering a real-time spectrum analyzer, dynamic EQ, mid/side processing, and a lot more.
You can use the spectrum analyzer to see what vocal frequencies need some attenuation, and then use the EQ to sculpt the sound to your liking. It makes EQ’ing vocals so much easier.
If you don’t have an EQ plugin in your arsenal yet or you’re looking for an upgrade, Pro-Q 3 is definitely worth checking out. Or check out our article on the best EQ plugins for more options.
SSL Native X-ValveComp
Producers cannot live without compression, it’s one of the most essential things in mixing, allowing you to even out the levels, add punch, and control the vocal dynamics.
There are many great compressor plugins out there, but our favorite for vocals is the X-ValveComp by SSL. It’s modeled after their legendary hardware compressors and sounds absolutely fantastic.
We love the extra color it adds to the vocals, giving them a more analog sound and making them sit better in the mix. Rock and metal producers will also love how it sounds on guitars and drums.
VoxDoubler by Sonnox
Doubling up vocals is a classic trick to make them sound fuller, thicker, or wider. Usually, this is done manually by letting the singer sing the part twice and then blending the two vocal tracks together.
Or duplicating the main track and then slightly delaying one of the tracks. This creates a nice “echo” effect that can make vocals sound wider.
Sonnox VoxDoubler is a plugin that does all of this automatically. You can control the amount of doubling, the delay time, pitch, tone, and even the stereo width. It’s a great timesaver with reasonable pricing around $100.
Little Plate by Soundtoys
Soundtoys is known for their creative effects plugins, and Little Plate is no exception. It’s modeled after the EMT 140 plate reverb, which was the game-changer in the world of reverb when it was released in the ’60s.
It’s a simple reverb plugin with just a few buttons, adding that classic plate reverb sound to vocals. Plate reverb lovers will definitely want to check this one out. It’s priced at around $100 and it sounds incredible.
PrimalTap by Soundtoys
Delay is another essential effect for vocals, and PrimalTap is our favorite delay plugin for vocal recordings. It is modeled after the Prime Time, which was a very popular delay unit back in the ’80s. Not only does it emulate the sound of Prime Time, but it also gives you a modern twist with some extra features.
It’s a really versatile delay plugin that sounds great on vocals, guitars, drums, and pretty much anything else. PrimalTap is priced at around $100 and comes with a bunch of great presets to get you started.
Weiss Deess De-Esser by Softube
De-essing is the process of removing unwanted sibilant frequencies from vocals. This is usually done by a de-esser, which is a plugin that detects and attenuates these frequencies automatically.
De-esser can also be used on hi-hats and cymbals to remove the harsh “ess” sound. And while mastering, it can be used on the entire mix to control the high frequencies.
There are hundreds of de-esser plugins out there, but our favorite is the Weiss Deess by Softube. It is probably the only de-esser you will ever need. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny.
Some DAWs have a de-esser built-in, so if you’re on a tight budget, check your DAW’s plugin library first. Built-in de-essers usually aren’t as good as dedicated plugins, but they can get the job done.
Auto-Key by Antares
Knowing the key of a song is essential for tuning vocals and making sure everything fits together in the song. But finding the key of a song can be a pain, especially if you’re not very good at music theory.
This is where Auto-Key comes in. It’s a plugin that analyzes the audio in real-time and automatically detects the key of the song. This is a huge time-saver, and it’s essential for anyone who wants to improve their workflows.
Auto-Key is priced at around $60 and is one of the cheapest plugins in our list.
There you have it, our favorite plugins for mixing vocals. This list is just the beginning, and there are tons of great plugins out there that we didn’t mention. We’ll continue to update this list as we discover new plugins, so be sure to check back often.
Do you have a favorite plugin for mixing vocals? Let us know in the comments below!